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Drugs leader says cannabis warnings a 'sign of times'

The Scotsman, 5th September 2006

THE Capital's alcohol and drugs chief has described a new police policy of issuing warnings to adults found in possession of cannabis as a "sad reflection of society".

Lothian and Borders Police are issuing warnings to over-16s found in possession of cannabis worth £15 or less instead of charging them and handing them over for prosecution.

The force is trialling the pilot scheme in West Lothian in a bid to cut down on the amount of time small crimes take up in court.

Tom Wood, chairman of Action on Alcohol and Drugs in Edinburgh, said: "I recognise it as a pragmatic response to the amount of cannabis that is around at the moment. It is a sign of the times really and is a sad reflection of society."

So far, police have issued 23 warnings to people in West Lothian caught in possession of the drug. If they are caught in possession for a second time they would face charges and an appearance in court.

Drugs campaigners have said that the scheme is sending out the wrong message to young people and will add to the confusion that the reclassification of cannabis to a Grade-C drug has caused.

The scheme follows on from a decision by all of Scotland's police forces to introduce adult warnings for minor first-time offences such as urinating in public or low-level breaches of the peace, in a bid to lighten the load on courts and prosecutors.

The change in policy comes as new figures show a huge increase in the number of people detained in Lothian hospitals with mental and behavioural problems attributed to cannabis.

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